Lesbian and bisexual
girls at risk for tobacco use
Revealed by recent study
recent study led by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston
and Brigham and Women's Hospital found that lesbian and bisexual
girls may be at a higher risk of tobacco use than other youths.
The study appeared in the April issue of the Archives
of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Using data from participants in the "Growing Up Today Study"—an
ongoing national health study of more than 16,000 adolescents
in the United States—researchers found that lesbian and
bisexual girls ages 12 to 17 were almost 10 times more likely
to say they smoke weekly compared to heterosexual girls of the
same age. Almost 40 percent of lesbian and bisexual girls reported
that they smoked weekly compared to only 6 percent of heterosexual
girls who reported smoking weekly.
In addition, lesbian and bisexual girls were about 60 percent
more likely than heterosexual girls to say they would be willing
to use tobacco promotional merchandise such as hats, shirts and
bags. Gay and bisexual boys in the study were not more likely
to smoke compared to heterosexual boys.
"We were surprised by the very high rates of smoking by lesbian
and bisexual teenage girls," says lead author S. Bryn
Austin, ScD, a Children's researcher. "Antigay stigma
and harassment, rejection from family, friends, peers, and sometimes
even physical violence can create a hostile environment for many
young people coming to terms with their sexual orientation. This
combined with the tobacco industry's targeted marketing to lesbian
and gay communities is putting these girls in harm's way. We're
concerned they may be slipping under the radar screen when it
comes to tobacco prevention efforts in schools and communities.
More needs to be done to protect them and to address the social
issues that may lead to their increased tobacco use." Researchers
also found that given the frequency of smoking, and high scores
on the tobacco dependence index, it is unlikely that the lesbian
and bisexual girls in the study were experimental or casual smokers.
Furthermore, it is likely that these girls are addicted to nicotine
or are moving in that direction.